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The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Grand final

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21st October, 2020
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It’s been a season that’ll be remembered for plenty of reasons, but finally the NRL grand final is here. The top two teams are set to face off in the decider, and The Roar’s NRL expert tipping panel are here to tell you who will lift the Provan Summons trophy and why.

And in this special edition of expert tipping we won’t tell just you that. The panel have been asked to submit their predictions for a margin, the winner of the Clive Churchill Medal, the first try-scorer and the winner of the NRLW grand final.

» NRL live scores: Follow Penrith vs Melbourne with The Roar’s live blog and commentary

With the Storm and Panthers getting over the Raiders and Rabbitohs respectively last week, it was resoundingly good tipping results across the board, with the exception of AJ and The Barry, who both tipped Canberra.

AJ because he always tips Canberra and The Barry because, well, ask him.

Anyway, that means The Crowd now lead AJ by four. There are five points on the line this weekend, but AJ would need to tip every single one of them (and have a difference to The Crowd) to win outright.

More interestingly, AJ is now only two points ahead of rookie tipper David, who has finished his first year strongly. Mary is then another point back, while I’m currently a point ahead of The Barry in the spoon race.

Remember to get your tips into the form below by 6pm (AEDT) on Sunday to join The Roar’s NRL tipping competition for 2020 and be featured as part of the Crowd’s tips for the grand final, and keep an eye out ahead of Origin when the tipping panel returns.


AJ Mithen

NRL grand final tip: Storm by 16
Clive Churchill Medal winner: Cameron Smith
First try-scorer: Brenko Lee
NRLW grand final tip: Broncos

Well, my Canberra Raiders are out, undone by a slow start, the Queensland government and an NRL head office that hates the little guy achieving anything.

The Melbourne Storm might have been involved somehow too, I can’t remember.

So we have Melbourne taking on a Penrith side on a 17-game winning tear but still finding time to sook about little things that don’t matter, like their halfback going to the Dally M count.

Dig this: the Storm have been around for 23 years and have missed the finals three times. Three times. This is their tenth grand final. In 23 years. By the time your mobile phone contract expires the Storm will have played in at least one grand final. What a team. What an organisation.


By now it’s clear I’m all-in on Melbourne for the win, but that’s not to sell Penrith short. The Panthers have a great mix of defence and attack, they understand a game’s ebbs and flows and adjust their play accordingly rather than panic and overreact. I was sceptical of Ivan Cleary’s reappointment as coach, but he has shown true ability to get a team going, led by his son Nathan, a phenomenally improved Jarome Luai, key pickup Api Koroisau and great years from Isaah Yeo and the undervalued Dylan Edwards at fullback.

Penrith are on a roll, are strong across the park and busting for their first premiership since 2003. But the Storm do this for a living and they’re right at home in the last game of the year. Storm to win and Cameron Smith to get the Churchill Medal, not necessarily because he’ll deserve it but because the voters won’t be able to stop themselves handing over a ‘fairytale’.

In the early grand final the Brisbane Broncos should make it three out of three NRLW premierships against the Roosters, who started brightly but copped some bad injuries. The Broncos are all but unstoppable in the women’s game, with Dally M player of the year Ali Brigginshaw pretty much doing as she pleases and Meg Ward nailing kicks from anywhere. They’ll have too much for the Roosters, who will rely on Hannah Southwell and need an injection of creativity from halfback Zehara Temara.

Cameron Munster and Cameron Smith celebrate a try

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

Mary Konstantopoulos

NRL grand final tip: Storm by 12
Clive Churchill Medal winner: Cameron Smith
First try-scorer: Josh Addo-Carr
NRLW grand final tip: Broncos

The Melbourne Storm have been incredible to watch this year. For so long they were criticised for being ‘boring’, but this year they have demonstrated that with the likes of Christian Welch, Ryan Papenhuyzen and Brandon Smith they are capable of going to another level. They are an experienced team and I am tipping them to beat the Penrith Panthers, who showed signs of nerves last week. Each member of the Storm squad knows their role and performs it with aplomb.

Then there is the intrigue surrounding Cameron Smith. Will he retire? Won’t he? Being chaired off from Suncorp Stadium suggests he may, but who knows. Perhaps he has told his teammates and they are using it as extra motivation. I’m expecting another dominant performance from him and he is my predicted Clive Churchill medallist.


The first try will be scored by Josh Addo-Carr and the Storm will go on to win by 12 points.

As for the NRLW, it’s too hard to tip against the Brisbane Broncos, who for the third year in a row have been the most dominant team in the competition. The Roosters have also been impressive but will be missing one of their strike weapons in Charlotte Caslick. Keep an eye on Meg Ward too, whose goal kicking for the Broncos might just be the difference.

James Tamou of the Panthers thanks the crowd

James Tamou (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

David Holden

NRL grand final tip: Panthers by two
Clive Churchill Medal winner: Nathan Cleary
First try-scorer: Stephen Crichton
NRLW grand final tip: Broncos

Well, we are finally here. It’s grand final week. While there is real excitement about the grand final winner, we are in an absolute stupor about who is going to win The Roar’s tipping competition. While the Crowd appears long gone, Mary and I are still close enough to pounce on AJ to claim second spot if we are accurate enough.

The 2003 season is remembered for a number of things. At the more macabre end of the scale we had the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and the US invasion of Iraq. More happily we got to meet an animated fish swimming along the east coast of Australia and Delta Goodrem was dominating the Australian charts. In the NRL a father-and-son combination won the premiership. Yes, Johnny and Martin Lang got Penrith their second cup.

Can another father-and-son combination win the club’s third?


There are other similarities with 2003. The 2003 Panthers were up against a team of stars, with Brad Fittler in some of his best form for the Roosters. Scott Sattler changed the game and the young Panthers went on to win to beat the more experienced Sydney team.

I think we will see history repeat in 2020. The Storm definitely had the best of the preliminary final form and the Panthers can’t let them build an early lead.

However, the forecast is for wet conditions and Nathan Cleary’s kicking game is arguably the best in the comp. It happened in 2016 when James Maloney kept turning the big Melbourne pack around and they were stuck in their half for most of the game against Cronulla. Cleary can do this again and the Panthers have enough class to score sufficient points to win.

It will be close though. Panthers by two points.

As you may expect, my Clive Churchill winner is Cleary. If you’re picking the Storm, gamble responsibly but put your house on Cameron Smith.

The first try scorer: Jarome Luai grubber. Stephen Crichton will be there to score.

As far as the NRLW is concerned, it’s hard to go past Brisbane winning their third. The battle in the forwards should be relatively even but the Broncos should have a little too much class through Ali Brigginshaw and Tamika Upton. Look out for the Roosters’ Hannah Southwell in defence though. She is lethal.

Nathan Cleary of the Panthers runs the ball

Nathan Cleary (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)


The Barry

NRL grand final tip: Storm by ten
Clive Churchill Medal winner: Cameron Smith
First try-scorer: Viliame Kikau
NRLW grand final tip: Broncos

Here we are, grand final day already.

For a shortened season it sure feels like a long time since we kicked this thing off. After a tumultuous year we’ve landed at one versus two – a Sydney team who didn’t have to spend much time on the road versus an out-of-town team who had to base themselves out of another town.

This is an intriguing match-up. The calm, measured control of Smith and Cleary. The explosive brilliance of Cameron Munster, Luai, Papenhuyzen and Koroisau. Pace out wide. Toughness through the middle. Potent edge attacks. They cancel each other out in so many areas.

One area they don’t is semi-final experience. Some people will point to James Tamou and Koroisau having won premierships previously. Or James Fisher-Harris having played for New Zealand and Cleary for New South Wales. But a grand final is different. The build-up, the media, the commitments.

Unfortunately the Panthers are up against a team who man-for-man have figured in these big end-of-season games year after year. That’s the edge in this game.

Not that I don’t give the Panthers a hope, but they’ll need to be at their absolute best for the entire 80 minutes. Melbourne are the masters at exposing and exaggerating any error. Last week the Panthers made plenty of those but were still good enough to get past Souths. Melbourne won’t be the same deal.

Meg Ward

Meg Ward (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Scott Pryde

NRL grand final tip: Storm by four
Clive Churchill Medal winner: Cameron Smith
First try-scorer: Brian To’o
NRLW grand final tip: Broncos

The grand final. The biggest game of the year and, frankly, we have the two most deserving teams running around.

I can’t see this being a blowout either way. The Storm play a style that will keep it tight one way or another, but they will need to be on their game because Penrith’s attack is a joy to watch when it gets going.

The big problem counting against Penrith is that lack of big-game experience. Yes, Nathan Cleary has played Origin and, yes, Apisai Koroisau has been there and done this before, while James Tamou also brings in plenty of experience.

Their youthful exuberance I tend to think will actually get them off to a good start, hence I’m backing Brian To’o for first try, but as the moment and fatigue catch up with them, players like Cameron Smith are going to be able to take over the game and make it their own.

He could well be the sole difference in this game, although Koroisau is about as good as a match-up gets from the other side of the park.

In a close game, though, it’s just impossible to go past the team who have been here, done this before, and with Craig Bellamy at the helm, you can bet they will be primed and ready to go.

It goes without saying then that Cameron Smith will win the Clive Churchill.

In the women’s grand final the Broncos have been the best team. There’s no doubt about that, and their win against the Roosters last week should give them plenty of confidence heading into the decider.

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Grand final AJ Mary David The Barry Scott Crowd
Margin 16 12 2 10 4 8
Clive Churchill Smith Smith Cleary Smith Smith Smith
First try Lee Addo-Carr Crichton Kikau To’o Addo-Carr
Last week 1 2 2 1 2 2
Total 120 117 118 110 111 124


Be sure to get your tips in on the form below by 6pm (AEDT) on Sunday, and we will publish the results of the Crowd’s tips before the first semi-final kicks off.